The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer

I ended up liking it. It took two tries, but I did. I actually enjoyed the cleverness of it the first time around too. I just got bored. I think It was because it is didactic.

As a child, I used to despise books that used stories only to carry a message or lesson (I hated morality fables with a passion), and even today I mistrust them. I'm not saying a story can't carry meaning, but I don't like it when it's crammed down my throat. The manifesto the author didn't dare to write straight, and hid inside his book, distracts me from the story I'm trying to read.

To compare:

In a Handmaid's Tale, the story shows the horror. It tells you nothing about what you ought to think, but boy, do you end up filled with thoughts.

What I found in this book is an adventure constructed around a message. It was, like I said before, cleverly done, and the winks and nudges where plentiful, mostly fun, take-that types, some a bit disturbing. The magic padding is pretty good, but the scaffolding structure is evident and makes it an uncomfortable read for me because it pulls me out of my suspension of disbelief to consider this bit of insight the author is eager to foster on me.


Closer compare: Two of Michael Ende's: "Momo", and "Neverending Story". Both are built around a message too, but they succeed (the second more than the first) because you can pretty much disregard all the deeper stuff if you just wish to gobble up the tale. Neverending is one of my all time favorites, and book I've re-read over half a dozen times through my life, always finding new things, and that my favorite chapter changed as I grew too.


So, maybe a kid would like this book, but not a kid as I was.